Reflections in my final column

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I personally felt I was ready to step up to the presidency around the mid-1980s but various circumstances prevented this happening. As the next 20 years disappeared, I always felt it was something that had passed me by.

When the opportunity arose again in the mid-2000s I wondered if I was “past it”, but with my wife Denise and employer Gemco Construction Ltd right behind me, the decision to say yes was easy.

How the past four years have flown. The whole time, one year as junior vice-president, one year as vice-president and then two years as president, has been a blur.
If I had to pick one highlight it would be meeting the active members of the Associations throughout the country, along with the Association managers.

It has always been so encouraging for me to see the enthusiasm and passion of those who attend not only executive or general meetings, but various breakfast meetings and conferences.

The passion and input many of you have for the wider benefit of the construction industry good never ceases to amaze me. You, like me, see the amount you get out of an organisation such as the RMBF is equal to, and many times surpassed by, the amount you put in. This is the very reason I have continued my active involvement for so many years.

It is very easy for one to be selfish and keep our patch to ourselves, but each of us can grow ourselves and our businesses by engaging with, and sharing best practice with others of like mind.

The “buzz” I have gotten from this participation around the country is something I will really miss.
Other highlights (in no particular order) include, but are not limited to:

Annual conference
Growing our annual conference, making it a bigger industry event and taking it to the provinces.

House of Year
What a marvellous marketing tool for members. Events around the country and the main gala event are just stunning, and are now seen as the industry function to attend.
We must ensure everyone does not go “stale” so this is a never-ending challenge to be kept on top of.

Apprentice of the Year
This event also continues to grow, and from what was a vision of the Wellington RMBA several years ago, it is now a sought after event for the up and coming leaders of our industry to participate in.

Time of change

It has been rewarding for me to see how the RMBF has handled the huge changes that have been effected on the New Zealand construction industry, the likes of which we have never seen before, or at least so many coming in such a short time frame.

Under chief executive Pieter Burghout’s direction and leadership, and the competent and enthusiastic staff and network, we have become the leading industry voice on all things related to construction.
How we are now viewed in political circles is great for us going forward.

Select committee submissions

Both RMBF submissions, one on the Building Amendment Act and the other on affordable housing, were extremely well received. The latter (or parts of it), in particular, has been quoted many times over by politicians, and we are told that out of all the submissions, the RMBF’s was by far the most comprehensive.

It’s a real pity the nub of housing affordability is the infrastructure costs and development levies. These increased 1000% in a five-year period. Unless Government gets in and sorts out the Local Government Act, things will not get better.

Costs of infrastructure and the like should be part of rates, and not lumbered on any particular development or section.
Several other submissions have also been made and each has had some success. For example, we supported Business NZ on the serious harm issue where there was a push to increase the items already listed on Schedule 2. Some of these would have had a serious impact on our industry.

Membership growth

It’s been pleasing to continually see our membership numbers increase year after year.
We do have strict membership criteria, so our strategy of getting the right members for the right reasons is working. We can gain in strength by numbers but only with those who aspire to our standards.

Master Build Guarantee

The success of this over an 18-year time frame has now ensured it’s a scheme the politicians see as a real benefit for the consumer, and one that would most likely be the Guarantee of choice if “compulsory home warranties” were introduced.

RMBF Board

Our Board structure works really well and, although sometimes it can be seen to be not listening to members, it is there to govern. We are a membership organisation, but sometimes hard decisions which may not receive universal approval have to be made for the betterment of the RMBF as a whole. These decisions are well considered by a group of talented individuals with members’ interests at heart.

Associations

The group that came together to review our structure as we look to the future, was very positive. The empowering of associations will mean we continue to add strength to our organisation and be the membership organisation builders must belong to.
Attending openings of the Canterbury House of Trades and the Waikato RMBA Show Home were both great experiences, as was the opening in Whakatane of Project Hope.

Commercial & Contracts Committee

A huge thank you to all the members of this committee. Your work load across an amazing range of subject matter is to be commended, and many members plus industry participants outside the RMBF have much to thank you for.

Volume builders and major contractors

Forums held for these groups have been well received, and I have enjoyed the interaction of participants. The vast divergence of this group of members, and taking into account those outside this group, makes the task of adding further value to their membership rather challenging.

Health & Safety, green building, energy efficiency, sustainable building
We are currently working with ACC to produce a set of H&S guidelines for residential builders, and have recently engaged with Site Safe over their SSSP (Site Specific Safety Plan) for subcontractors.There is much more to do in this field.

Green building, energy efficiency and sustainable building are all growing their momentum. We are in the thick of things to ensure we have our say and keep some reality on proposals which could affect us.

International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors Association (IFAWPCA)
I got a real buzz out of attending their 2007 Convention in Australia.

The benefits of the RMBF belonging are:
• the industry good,
• that there has and still is a genuine effort being made to make IFAWPCA more functional and, going forward, this will mean New Zealand can play a more active part. There is a continuing genuine effort to effect “change” and to make the IFAWPCA a well respected and worthwhile organisation to belong to,

• the possible conduit for business opportunities for those members keen on developing relationships and working off shore,
• that there is much in common to be shared and gained, particularly on Contract Conditions and Health and Safety. We can learn from each other, and
• that if only one member of the RMBF gets to make a contact and do business through the IFAWPCA, our annual fee is well spent.

We need to formulate a strategy that will allow greater participation and subsequent sharing of information to benefit more RMBF members. Again, it is a great friendship that exists in the organisation, just as in the RMBF.

A high and low light has to be the Builder Practitioner Licensing Scheme. Will this turn out to be a Clayton’s scheme?
The effort put into this by so many people has been huge, and we backed it fully from the outset. But in saying this we have never deviated from our view that licensing should be company based.

After much engagement with Government and the DBH during the setting up of the scheme, a big dampener was put on licensing by the previous Minister for Building and Construction and this, as yet, has not been remedied.

There was a view that DIYers should be able to build the “meat and potatoes house” which has effectively meant that the whole purpose of licensing proposed by the 2002 Hunn Report has been quashed.

The RMBF has unfortunately had to then take a neutral stance until we get reassurance from the Government that they don’t really mean what has been proposed.
Along with this, the other ingredients of the scheme such as product certification are still in their infancy, and there is little sign that things are progressing to our satisfaction.

Probably the most serious issue is that a scheme is now in its voluntary stage, but the regulations around restricted building work (those works which must be carried out or supervised by a LBP) have yet to be sorted.

This is likened to training for a sports game and running on the field without knowing what the rules are.
I must say on a personal note that after many hours of work it has been frustrating not being able to say to the wider membership “go for it”.

There is so much more I could write and/or expand on, but now is not the right time to write a book. With elections looming and a real softening of the market, we are in for some interesting times.

I have noticed quite a variance in work volumes around the country and, as we have said many times, the regional differences are hard to expand on when asked to give a general overview of the industry.

A drop in consent numbers does not necessarily mean a drop in work as the consent values in many areas continue to rise.
We are in for harder times though, which means we all must look at our operation and work smarter.